Howard Snyder – John Stott’s Celibacy


Howard Snyder, whom I had the privilege of meeting in person two years ago in Bethlehem, has written a very hearty text on Stott’s celibacy. You will find many gems in this text. I also hope that some of my friends, men and women who, Uncle John, expected to get married, but did not, will find comfort and encouragement in their faithful following on Christ in their unmarried state.

Here is the first part of Snyder’s text:

Occasionally over the years I’ve heard people question John Stott’s sexual identity, since he never married. That the question would even be raised says more about current culture than about Stott.

Anglican churchman John Stott was the leading evangelical figure of the 20th century. Pastor, preacher, and teacher; author of many books; the genius behind the Lausanne Covenant. The man of whom New York Times columnist David Brooks once wrote, “If evangelicals chose a pope, they would likely select John Stott.”

Roger Steer’s 2009 biography, Basic Christian: The Inside Story of John Stott (IVP) clarifies many things about this remarkable man, including the question I raise here. Stott was born in 1921 and died in 2011, and Steer’s biography was written with Stott’s consent and collaboration.

Gist of the matter: Stott wanted to be married, but the right person never came along. Twice he had girlfriends, but neither relationship led to the altar.

One of Stott’s many study assistants through the years, Mark Labberton, once met a woman in the U.S. who said a friend of hers “was nearly engaged to John Stott.” Mark asked John about this and Stott told him, “It is true, but I just came to feel that it wasn’t God’s calling for us to get married” (p. 197).

Yet Stott never idealized celibacy. One young acquaintance said he “was always surprised by John’s lack of enthusiasm for the single state,” Steer reports. He encouraged young people to marry if they found the right person and on at least one occasion discouraged a young man from following his example of singleness.

Stott was famous for his passion for bird-watching. In later life he published his book The Birds Our Teachers (1999). Stott once told a friend, “Bird-watching is my wife substitute – and a very bad substitute too!” (p. 198).

Three Renunciations

Toward the end of his life Stott spoke of his “three renunciations.” First, he decided against an academic career, feeling God had called him to be a pastor. Second was Stott’s renunciation of marriage. Third was his renunciation of the episcopate when some wanted him to be a bishop. His pastoral calling, he felt, remained primary.

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Read HERE the entire article.




Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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